The gospel singer Mavis Staples has toured the world with her family as part of the Staple Singers, sang for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the height of the civil rights movement, spent weeks on the Billboard charts, experienced a midcareer resurgence in the 1980s thanks largely to Prince, and once turned down a marriage proposal from Bob Dylan. Now the soon to be 77-year-old will be a Kennedy Center honoree, the second gospel singer, after Marion Williams in 1993, to be recognized in the awards’ history.
“I started crying, I hit the floor, I asked my manager, ‘Are you sure?’” Ms. Staples said by phone, recalling the moment she heard the news. “I’m still excited and in disbelief. It’s so uplifting. I feel good. I must be the happiest old girl in the world.”
Ms. Staples is one of five honorees selected to receive one of the nation’s top prizes for artistic achievement. She will be joined by the pianist Martha Argerich, the singer-songwriter James Taylor, the actor Al Pacino and the band the Eagles.
The show will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 27.